Concerned SC lawmakers, top law enforcement officials join in support of new unlawful carry legislation
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Several state lawmakers and two law enforcement officials from the Midlands joined together at the Statehouse Monday to show their support for new legislation linked to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals statewide.
State Representatives Seth Rose (D-Columbia), Kirkman Finlay (R-Columbia), and Ivory Thigpen (D-Columbia), will co-sponsor and introduce a bill that seeks to address the pervasive issue of criminals unlawfully carrying firearms on our streets.
“What you’re starting to see is a bipartisan coalition coming together to address the bad people, the criminals, the repeat offenders, people who are out looking to do harm," Rep. Finley said. "We want to go after them, we want them to understand that doing their bad business with weapons is not acceptable in South Carolina.”
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott both joined Monday’s press conference in show of support for the new bill. Both law enforcement leaders say it’s a statewide problem, not just a problem in the Midlands.
“We need help,” Lott said. “We’ve got too many people who are dying due to gun violence. And we tend to see that it’s a small minority of people committing the majority of those crimes. These are the ones that this law is focusing on. This is not your law-abiding citizen who wants to go out and buy a gun. These are the criminals who continuously break the law and continuously carry guns and continuously shoot.”
The proposed law would amend existing law by make it unlawful to possess a weapon if you have been convicted of a crime that carries over a year and adding graduated penalties for convicted criminals who unlawfully carry a weapon repeatedly. Rose said their proposed legislation would make the current law compliant with federal law.
The bill would extend existing law to those who have been convicted of a crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison. Once enacted, a person convicted of breaking the law would be charged with a misdemeanor for a first offense and must be imprisoned for no more than three years.
An offender convicted of the same charge a second time would be charged with a felony and face up to 10 years in prison. An offender convicted of the same charge for a third time would be charged with a felony and up to 15 years in prison.
The bill would mimic federal law in its creation of graduated penalties for repeat offenders.
“This is a plea from law enforcement but it’s also a plea from the community,” Lott said. “It’s not just the cops standing up here saying we need this, our community is saying that. We’re going after the bad guys - not good guys - the bad guys who continuously live and die by the gun, and we’ve got to stop that."
“I can’t say enough about how imporatant this measure is,” Holbrook said. “Your attention to this matter is refreshing, to say the least. This is very common-sense - as a citizen, as a gun owner, as a law enforcement chief, a parent - we’ve got to use every too that’s available to us to identify the offenders, identify the prolific trigger-pullers, but having common-sense, comprehensive legislation allows us to hold people to account and I think this is a fantastic step to make that happen.”
Rep. Thigpen said the law “handcuffs” law enforcment from doing their jobs better.
“This legislation is not an assault on anyone’s rights, instead it is properly arming our law enforcement agencies with the tools to make our streets, our communities, and really our lives, safer,” Thigpen said. “The irony is we’ve handcuffed our law enforcment by not giving them the proper tools to do their job. And today, we take one step further in taking those handcuffs off so they can do a better job of doing what they already do a good job of doing.”
You can watch the full press conference here.
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